Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) mourns the loss of Roman Kent
NEW YORK, May 21, 2021 The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) mourns the loss of Roman Kent, a leading voice among Holocaust survivors who negotiated billions of dollars in compensation for Jewish Holocaust survivors from the German government. Mr. Kent passed away earlier this morning at age 92.
Born in Lodz, Poland in 1929, Roman survived the Lodz ghetto and several camps including Merzbachtal, Dornau, and Flossenburg and Auschwitz. Roman’s father died of malnutrition in the Lodz ghetto and his mother was murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Roman and his brother Leon were liberated by the U.S. army in 1945 while on a death march to Dachau. The brothers were reunited with their two sisters, Dasza and Renia in Sweden after liberation, but sadly, Dasza was very ill and died a few months later.
In June 1946, Roman and Leon immigrated to the United States as part of a government program to admit 5,000 orphans. Roman lived in Atlanta, Georgia with his foster parents where he attended Emory University, graduating and going on to start a successful international trade company. His adult life was dedicated to Jewish philanthropy and advocacy, serving as a voice for those murdered in the Shoah.
“As Chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Roman was a long-time board member and Co-Chair of the Claims Conference negotiating committee,” said Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference. “Roman made himself available for every cause that we put in front of him, tirelessly giving of his time and energy. He will be remembered as an unwavering force of good will and an undeniable advocate for the global Jewish community. He was more than a colleague – he was family and his loss will leave a hole that can never be filled.”
At the Claims Conference, Roman Kent was as a long-time board member serving in many capacities over the years including as: treasurer, Co-Chair of the Claims Conference negotiating committee, on the Leadership Council, and as a Special Advisor to the President. In addition, he was the Chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants and the President of the International Auschwitz Committee.
Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference, said, “None of these titles even begins to scratch the surface of the work he did during his lifetime. From negotiating billions of dollars in pensions and compensation for Jewish Holocaust survivors from the German government, championing survivor interests with insurance companies, German industry, and eastern European governments, to advocating for Holocaust education, to taking on Facebook in demanding that they remove Holocaust denial posts from their platform, no task was too large or too demanding. Even as his own health waned, he continued to fight against antisemitism and hatred.”
Claims Conference Special Negotiator, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, said, “The loss of Roman Kent as my co-chair is staggering and incalculable. I had the distinct privilege of working side by side with Roman during our ongoing negotiations on behalf of Holocaust survivors for more than a decade. He made it his personal mission to advocate for his fellow survivors to the very end, participating on negotiations calls as recently as last week. His strength and fortitude were unmatched, and his drive and determination to see justice served knew no bounds. There will be an enormous empty chair when we next negotiate with the German government. He will be sorely missed by all who were fortunate enough to know and him. Roman was not just my colleague in seeking justice for Holocaust survivors, he was my friend and my inspiration. Life will never be the same for me without him.”
Recently, in his last public appearance, Roman shared his thoughts in a video as part of the Claims Conference’s #ItStartedWithWords campaign, a digital, Holocaust education effort featuring videos of survivors from around the world reflecting on those moments that led up to the Holocaust. The video is emblematic of his longstanding efforts to raise awareness about how words of hate can lead to deadly consequences.
About the Claims Conference: The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), a nonprofit organization with offices in New York, Israel and Germany, secures material compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world. Founded in 1951 by representatives of 23 major international Jewish organizations, the Claims Conference negotiates for and disburses funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust.
As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. In 2021, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $625 million in direct compensation to over 260,000 survivors in 83 countries and will allocate approximately $640 million in grants to over 300 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as homecare, food and medicine.
#ItStartedWithWords is a digital, Holocaust education campaign featuring videos of survivors from around the world reflecting on those moments that led up to the Holocaust — a period of time when they could not have predicted the ease with which their long-time neighbors, teachers, classmates, and colleagues would turn on them, transitioning from words of hate to acts of violence.
The campaign uses survivor testimony to give context to the origins of the Holocaust—the foundation of antisemitism that Hitler and the Nazis used to generate support across Europe before a single act of war was undertaken. The goal of the campaign is to show how words of hate can become actions, and how those actions can have unimaginable outcomes. The campaign also includes ItStartedWithWords.org, a website that provides educational resources from partner museums and institutions, as well as the collection of the survivor videos from the campaign.